Saturday, March 24, 2007

Building Pressure From the U.S. Attorney Firing Investigations

That "overblown personnel matter" involving the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys heads into another week of tension between Congress and the White House, with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales seemingly carried forward in its wake.  The House and Senate Judiciary Committees authorized the issuance of subpoenas to five Presidential aides, including Karl Rove and Harriet Miers, regarding their roles in the decision to fire the federal prosecutors.  The subpoenas have not yet launched, and appear to be more bargaining chips to get the White House to let the aides testify in a setting that goes beyond the offer of a private, unsworn, off-the-record briefing -- hard to get much publicity out of that.  Responding to the threat of subpoenas, the White House indicated that the offer of a briefing is "off the table" if subpoenas are sent.  A CNN.Com story (here) discusses the confrontation.

The Department of Justice also announced that it had found more e-mails and documents relevant to the firings, proving that the document production problems that have plagued Wall Street firms like Morgan Stanley are not limited to the private sector.  It's not clear what the latest trove of e-mails will reveal, but that last bunch have shown just how embarrassing "private" e-mails can be to their authors.  In the fine tradition of Berkshire Hathaway's 8-K filings, the documents will likely be release on a Friday or over the weekend.

As the two sides negotiate over the terms of any testimony by Rove et al., AG Gonzales' former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 30, agreeing to make his statements under oath.  Sampson is at, or at least very near, the center of the controversy, and resigned after it became clear that DOJ witnesses were not entirely truthful in their testimony about White House involvement in the firings.  His e-mails with Miers show her involvement in the issue in early 2005, almost two years before the U.S. Attorneys were sacked.  The Committee's Democrats will focus on e-mails stating that one quality of a good prosecutor is being "loyal" to the President, with Sampson describing some in another e-mail as "loyal Bushies."  Sampson's communications prove yet again that people will write things in e-mails that they would never say in any type of official situation.  An AP story (here) discusses Sampson's agreement to testify.  Don't look for this story to lose much steam any time soon. (ph)

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